Pandora left Nevoc and found her surroundings not like she remembered, the profound change in the times come and gone, left her feeling isolated and with great sadness. She went back to the only place that she recalled with fond memories of times past, in the very cemetery she met Naberious, ironically not too far from the very cemetery that Lahash and Caticus had discussed her.
She walked around and found the headstone that Naberious stood in front of that at one time, was fresh. Now it was an old grave, dated and worn. The tree with the low-hanging branch remained and stood the test of time. She gazed upon the barren branch and remembered the red bird that chirped within its once green and luscious leaves.
She leaned upon the tombstone and looked down at the blades of grass at her feet and recalled her visit to ancient Egypt with Naberious when she discovered her past life with him, a past life that she still could not remember, when a voice interrupted her. “Oh, my. It is you. Oh, I never thought I would see you again.”
Pandora’s aquamarine eyes widened with joy, and a long-lost smile returned to her face, giving her cheeks the fiery color, she once carried.
“Caticus! Caticus!” Pandora shouted as she ran with her arms opened wide to embrace her friend.
As they ran to one another, their bodies collided, and they stood in a tight hold for several minutes, both shedding the tears of relief, joy, and the pain that each suffered upon the casting away Pandora endured.
As close as Caticus was to Pandora, there was not much that escaped his attention. As he held her, he paused, and his face furrowed.
“Pandora, how did you get out? I hoped I would find you. I can’t believe it!” Caticus held Pandora tightly, and tears streamed from his eyes. He pulled away to look at her once more. “Is it really you?” He continued to stare into her eyes in doubt as he looked for something more reassuring that it was her.
Pandora giggled and wiped the tears from his eyes. “Yes!”
Caticus put his arms around her shoulders and hugged her again. “I thought I could find you here. We have little time. I have spoken with Lahash.” He opened his embrace to take her by her hands. “He must watch you. He knows much about what has happened. He told me about Raina and the other girl who set you free. But with what your mother has done, I know you can’t return to the fairy realm. At least not yet anyway.”
Pandora said, “What? Lahash? What does he have to do with this?”
Caticus sighed, “Look, he says he can take you to Naberious.”
“Naberious. Yes, let’s go.” Pandora pulled on Caticus to leave the cemetery.
“Wait. He isn’t anywhere near the dark realm. He has banished himself. He went to your mother after he learned what happened to you, confronted her, and instead of returning the book from the dark one to ensure that nothing like this would happen again, he kept her book. No one has seen him. However, Lahash tells me he may have returned to Egypt. He will help us get the book back to give to your mother. Lahash said that book should have something to get your strength back to portal back to the realm. According to Lahash, you do not have long.”
Pandora said, “What do you mean?”
“Pandora, the longer you are away from the fairy realm, the more likely you will perish. You have been cast away for so long. Now you are in the flesh or close to it, you have little time before you weaken and perish.”
Pandora froze, barely breathing, and she looked to Caticus with vulnerability in her eyes. “Why was that book given to the dark one, to begin with?”
Caticus shrugged. “I am not sure, really. However, I think it was more so a warning to the dark one. Meaning if she would go as so far to do what she did to her daughter, then what would it mean to a demon, maybe.”
“So that book sent a message and after, to be returned to my mother?”
“Apparently. But I am sure there must be more to it. We don’t have all the answers.”
“We have to hurry. I don’t care what he wants. I will give it to him. Take me to Lahash.” Pandora pulled on Caticus with desperation.
In moments, Caticus created a portal. As the watery appearance emerged, drowning away the scenery of the cemetery, the lights decorated his face purple and blue.
She smiled while she examined Caticus’s pale skin come to life with the colors of his genuine aura. “So purple and blue is your aura?”
Caticus smiled and shrugged. “Well, today it is.”
They disappeared into the purple and blue dusky hue to be transported to the place that Naberious took Pandora to when he showed her, she was from a past life.
Upon the exit, they stepped out into the sand and an arid climate in the evening time of Cairo Egypt. Apart from the city and the hustle and bustle, they appeared within a few yards of the old cemetery for much of the pharos. It was called Necropolis ‘city of the dead.’
“Lahash said to come here, that he would meet me here with you and show you where Naberious is.” Caticus kept his back to Pandora while he surveyed the skyline. “Wow, this place is everything I have been told it was.”
“You have never been here?”
Caticus nonchalantly said, “Well, no, my stations have never been here. Your mother has been strict about where the fairies go. I do not believe that with the thousands of fairies in the realm I have had the chance to meet the fairy who comes here.” He smiled and kicked at the sand with his foot. “But I wouldn’t pass up the chance to meet that fairy.”
Pandora examined Caticus’s profile with caution before her eyes broke away to look at the interruption.
“Caticus, you came.” There he stood, smug Lahash, who was eager to help Pandora. “Pandora, you are quite the talk of the realms.” He snorted and stared at her with his predatory eyes.
Pandora’s eyes narrowed. “Where is Naberious?”
“Not much on small talk, are you?” Lahash lost the smug look about him. He adjusted his coat jacket along with a pair of imaginary cuff links, as though he was doing her a favor.
“He is there.” Lahash lifted his arm and extended his finger to point toward the area of Necropolis.
Pandora moved forward. Her eyes were cautious and with disbelief. “Why? Why would he be here? It is a bunch of people living amongst tombs?”
Lahash stared at the city whose population had exploded over the years, with residents barely able to afford much. They lived amongst the dead, and many within their own homes. Often, taking a room meant for just the tomb to live in as a home.
“Ask him that.” Lahash walked away, leaving Pandora and Caticus behind to follow. He led them through the dry arid desert to the city of the dead.
As they walked through the city, he took them past a man was outside sleeping beneath the stars with just a dirty pillow and an old tattered woven blanket. Many citizens walked through the small walkways tending to their usual duties. As night was in full swing, the town activities died down, giving it the appearance of a deserted place, giving rise to the spookiness that lingered in the air.
“Why do they live this way?” Pandora asked while Caticus examined the man who lay asleep.
“They do not have many choices. Some earthquakes years back have brought more people in, and the populations multiply and have been ever since.”
Finally, after meandering through the strange city of the dead, they arrived at a run-down small building that appeared to be a tiny living quarter or apartment. No lights inside, just several tombs of the ancients that were buried there.
Lahash strolled in, investigating the inside of the abandoned quarter. He stopped and smiled as he nodded toward the wall that once held a window, now broken out with shards of glass on the floor. “He is there.”
After a few tense and quiet moments, glowing yellow eyes appeared within the darkened room, and a silhouette of a man emerged.
Pandora’s bright eyes widened and held her breath while her pounding heart fluttered within her chest. Soon, the silhouette took more of a shape within the moonlight, and it was then she recognized him. “Naberious.” She said and then covered her mouth with her hand and her eyes welled up with tears. “Naberious!” she shouted and ran over to the demon.
She grabbed onto him, as he stood there emotionless, as though he was in disbelief. She embraced him, sobbing into his shoulder. Her muffled cries echoed into the room. Naberious reluctantly brought his arms up around her and took in her memorable scent.
Pandora pulled away, wiping the tears from her eyes as the smile left her face. She studied his subdued response. “Naberious? It is me, Pandora?”
He turned his back away. “Why are you here?”
Pandora looked to Lahash, who stood with a still face. After a moment, Caticus moved closer to be supportive and put his hand on her shoulder.
“Naberious, why am I here? Selena cast me out. The human girls released me. I am weakened, I need to regain strength to return home, to confront my mother. Why do you push me away?”
Naberious sharply turned around, his eyes narrowed, and he hissed, “Return home? Face your mother? What is this some joke?” He looked to Lahash and said, “Why did you bring them here?”
Lahash unclasped his hands he held behind his back and walked to stand next to Naberious. “I had to bring her here, you never believed me after you confronted Selena. You needed to hear it from her.”
Pandora interrupted, “Hear what? What are you talking about?”
Lahash’s smugness returned. “He needed to hear and see from you that what the queen presented him was nothing more than a trick.”
Naberious lunged toward Lahash. “Stop it! This is another mind trick! This is not even Pandora. Get them out of here!” Naberious shouted.
Pandora’s face was grave, the fire in her cheeks was gone, and the pouring of tears covered her face as Caticus pulled her away. She walked back as he tugged on her arm, still in disbelieve that he would reject her in this way.
After the three left Naberious in the strange apartment like tomb, they continued to walk back the way they came.
Pandora shouted, “What is going on! Stop playing games!”
“This is not a game, Pandora,” Lahash said. “When he went to confront Selena, she told him she banished you, but she told him it was in an alternate universe where fairies existed. That you had chosen a mate. Another fairy prince.”
Pandora was incredulous. “What? Why would she tell him that? Why would he believe her?”
Lahash stopped walking and turned to face her. “She showed him, she cast an image up that played out in front of him. She lied to him and told him that when you were confronted that you denied it, that to prove it to her that Naberious was nothing to you would live in another plane and make a family for yourself with the fairy prince. That you promised to never return. She told him if a fairy showed up claiming to be you, that it was a farce.”
Pandora’s anger exploded, barely able to speak from rage, she stomped away and gritted her teeth. Caticus ran to her, and his face was full of concern. “Pandora, calm down. Listen to Lahash.”
Lahash raised his voice, so she could hear him from where she stood with her back turned. “Selena knew the dark one would never punish him or punish him through destruction. She wanted to hurt him in the worst way. Telling him the truth would have been too painful, however, telling him you shared with her it was nothing and that you would move on with someone else, was sure the drive the knife into his proverbial demon heart.”
Pandora froze as if she heard something unbelievable with the ultimate desire to not allow her reaction to pour out. She squinted her eyes tight and locked her jaw as she held her breath. With a low and ragged voice, she said, “My mother and Naberious spoke?”
Lahash whispered, “Yes. I saw him before he left to see her.”
Pandora remained frozen, “Why would my mother do all of this to me? To anyone. I do not understand you, Lahash.” Pandora turned around to face him. It angered her, her skin flushed red. “Why do you tell me these things? Why do you help him? Or if this is what you call help.”
Lahash stood higher from his stooped posture and unlocked his hands that were clasped behind his back. His hands fell to his sides as his face seemed confused at the question. “Why wouldn’t I help a fellow demon? He was once a member of our high court. We consider him a duke. Mostly, however, he was one of the dark one’s closest advisors until he banished himself here, has not returned since. In a century, we have missed his advice, his stealthy knowledge that he keeps. We want him back. The dark one wants him back, and if I bring him back from his self-induced exile, then the dark one would be most pleased. You are the only way.”
Pandora walked back toward Lahash and stood within inches of his face. “You want me to help you? That is what this is about? You?” Pandora snarled at him and then sharply turned to leave again.
As she was leaving, Caticus, though confused, followed, leaving Lahash with the confounded look on his face. “Pandora, wait,” Caticus said as he caught up with her. “Where are you going? I mean, he is trying to help. How can you turn on Naberious now? He doesn’t understand what has happened. He needs to hear this from you.”
Pandora stopped and faced her friend. “Caticus, he won’t even look at me. How much could he genuinely care for me if he is so reluctant to believe me? I came all this way and suffered for what? For him to turn on me now? Maybe my mother did me a favor, maybe she was right.”
“No! No decent mother would do such a thing! To cast you out. To cast you to the underworld. How can you believe that?” Caticus looked into the hurt eyes of his friend. A solitary tear strolled down his cheek.
“I need to get back to our time, and we need to portal to the fairy realm,” Pandora said.
Lahash said, “I can strengthen you. I can get you to the dark realm. That is all I can do. From there you will be on your own, to do what you will. But I assure you, finding any mercy from the queen herself, I am sorry to say won’t be found.